Blog Takeover: My Friends Review New Music!

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Hello, everyone! Happy August. I can’t believe we’ve been in quarantine for almost four months (maybe even longer for some of you). I’ve been keeping busy with a LOT of reading (25 books and counting since April), writing, playing with my pet cockatiel, and of course, discovering a wealth of new music. For today’s post, I’m excited to collaborate with a few of my friends who are just as crazy about music as I am. Here are their reviews/thoughts on some of the new music out there!

1. George Clanton & Nick Hexum – Self-titled

Released July 24th, 2020

Review by Dominic (@sixtysecondrecords)

“George Clanton, Los Angeles-based artist and owner of the 100% Electronica label, joins forces with Nick Hexum of 311 to create a woozy, punchy and forward soundtrack to a lost summer, left to sit in the hot July sun.

Clanton, a pioneer of the vaporwave genre, has refined his version of vaporwave to appeal to a broader audience of pop-centric fans. Known for his experience producing vaporwave music, Clanton embraces his old sound and introduces it to pop-punk; a music baby we didn’t know we needed. Rather than focus on the sweeping, slow melodies and repetitive nature of vaporwave, the music is focused on the lyrics and percussion. A personal admiration for 311 inspired Clanton to create the self-titled album.

The clash between pop, punk and vaporwave is a showcase to behold. This is the sound of summer. It is a staggeringly new sound, one I haven’t heard from any album before. The first track ‘Aurora Summer’ sets the tone for the rest of the album: luscious, wavy synths paired with in-your-face guitar licks and a heavy presence of percussion also found on ‘Topanga State of Mind.’ ‘King for a Day’ introduces the classic Clanton-sound, borrowing samples from previous work to break up repetition. The album art is interesting, to say the least. In previous releases, Clanton and Hexum have been depicted as dogs, relaxing by the beach and having a smoke. Along with the art, this entire release has been something new for both artists. A truly refreshing summer release.” – Dominic

RATING: 8/10

FOR FANS OF: Washed Out, Dan Mason, Surfing

2. The Chicks – Gaslighter

Released July 17th, 2020

Review by Natalie (@bookshop.babes / @nataliehope245)

“The Chicks, formally known as The Dixie Chicks, was a prominent country girl band in the ’90s-2000’s. They took a writing hiatus after their 2006 album Taking the Long Way, and have come back with their new release, Gaslighter, with quite a bang. The album, based mostly on the recent divorce of the lead singer, touches on themes of pain, betrayal, recovery, and willpower. The title song, initially released as a single, would be the first song I’d recommend listening to. Not only is it really freaking catchy, but it does a great job of summing up the message of the album: don’t let the literal man get you down. I don’t believe there is one song on the album I dislike, and that is a very rare occurrence for me!

Now, I know what you all are thinking: country music…really? Suspend your disbelief for just a moment to listen to this album. It’s a very poppy type of country that will leave you singing into your hairbrush and dancing like nobody’s watching. I would equate it to a grown woman’s version of Taylor Swift’s early work, with more soul and pain that anyone 16 and older can relate to. Also, if you are a harmony lover, you will be obsessed with the three-part harmonies by Natalie and her fellow Chicks!

My top three songs for the album are ‘Texas Man’, ‘For Her,’ and ‘Julianna Calm Down,’ but these top songs change every day. Listen to these three, along with the title song, and don’t fight the urge to listen to the rest!” -Natalie

RATING: 8/10

FOR FANS OF: Stevie Nicks, Little Big Town, Kacey Musgraves

3. Taylor Swift – folklore

Released July 24th, 2020

Review by M. Street

“At a high level, Swift’s latest effort in folklore can be described as many things. A mature and subtle departure from high-flying pop, and ‘critics’ darling’ of subdued mystical narratives, or an introspective and brooding record reflective of the broader societal experience of a global pandemic. In my estimation, Swift dives into unfamiliar (yet somehow familiar) territory. She cooly demonstrates her unparalleled lyrical and hook-writing ability, albeit on top of at-times boring, drony and uninspired songwriting. 

Throughout the album, Swift delivers a handful of sparkly gems that benefit immensely from the contrast they provide against the airy motif present throughout the collection. On first listen, ‘Invisible String’ made me sit up and lean toward the speakers as the boppy, fingerpicked guitar intro seemed to wake the record up from its brooding meander like some sort of acoustic alarm clock. A classic autobiographical Swift tune, ‘Strings’ takes the listener on a subtle yet effective tour of top-drawer playful lyricism and hook-writing. Sung in a much more recognizable register for Swift, cascading melisma and breathy pronunciation can make one think that the album is taking a turn for the brighter. The reflection on ‘love as fate’ takes a couple of notable dives into the recurring lower vocal timbre evident throughout folklore, tying ‘Strings’ perfectly into the broader work while still providing a shimmering and whimsy masterpiece that belongs in the Swifitian pantheon alongside the likes of ‘You Belong With Me’.

Swift also sprinkles her lyrical and hook-writing class in at times unexpected corners of the record. ‘Mirrorball’ stands out as a beachy foray into layered harmony with a refrain of ‘Hush!’ that can’t help but make the listener raise their shoulders and shiver. ‘August’ delivers a similar vibe and a candidate for the earwormiest of choruses on the record, but loses a bit of steam as the singer’s focus pivots strangely from a cutesy picnic in a meadow to clandestine meetings behind a Nordstrom. This review would be remiss to not mention ‘Betty’, the record’s only venture into the patented high school setting that Swift has revisited and refreshed countless times since her debut record, this time with a Dylan-esque harp.

For me, folklore leaves a bit to be desired and suffers slightly from some clunkers that might have been better off on a 25th Anniversary bonus disc (‘Seven’, ‘Epiphany’, ‘Hoax’). At the same time, though, the record doesn’t let you forget just how masterful Taylor Swift is as an artist. In her own magical way, folklore delivers delight around every corner for those who love Taylor Swift. Pop signatures that she’s trademarked for herself over the years creep up on nearly every song, providing ephemeral moments of enjoyment. 

A sombre, brooding album that drones on at times, Swift’s class across the board of composition and production shines through to (mostly) save the album from itself.” -M. Street

RATING: 7/10

FOR FANS OF: Camila Cabello, Dua Lipa, Harry Styles

4. The Beths – Jump Rope Gazers

Released July 10th, 2020

Review by Hayden (@HaydenTharp)

“Although it doesn’t pack the same punch as their debut record, The Beth’s sophomore album, Jump Rope Gazers, is an excellent follow-up. With themes of lovesickness and the yearning to be close to someone, Elizabeth Stokes, lead singer, continues her stellar and sweet songwriting — which feeds easily into the situation a lot of us find ourselves in 2020.

We see the band a bit more stripped back on this record, with songs like, ‘Jump Rope Gazers’ and ‘You Are a Beam of Light’ featuring soft guitar melodies and limited percussion. These tracks help highlight Stokes’ soft voice and impassioned lyrics. On the song, ‘You Are a Beam of Light,’ easily The Beth’s most mellow song in their discography, Stokes’ sings, ‘Open my eyes so I can see brighter — And you are a beam of light –Maybe that’s why your battery runs dry,’ as she deals with watching someone she thinks so highly of burn out from being so bright. This is a moment we really didn’t get with their last album, and it shows the band’s growth and willingness to attempt a new sound as they advance in their careers.

Personally, I am a fan of their more upbeat songs on their debut album, but Stokes’ lyricism is enough to keep me invested in the new, laid back sound that shows up on a lot on this album. It’s clear that she has a knack for creating a storyline for each of her songs, which helps to create a connection and visualize her intentions. I truly think Stokes’ is one of the best songwriters in the indie scene right now. Some of the standout tracks for me are, ‘Dying to Believe,’ ‘Don’t Go Away,’ ‘Mars, the God of War,’ and ‘You Are a Beam of Light.’ The whole album flows nicely at a clear and concise 10 songs and 39 minutes.” -Hayden

RATING: 7/10

FOR FANS OF: Phoebe Bridgers, Courtney Barnett, Soccer Mommy

5. The 1975 – Notes On A Conditional Form

Released on May 22nd, 2020

Review by Flora (@Flora on YouTube)

“The 1975’s songs are for nighttime car rides with friends, but also screaming at the top of your lungs. I am reviewing their most recent album, Notes On A Conditional Form.

N.O.A.C.F is the band’s fourth studio album. Featuring a whopping 22 tracks, its total duration is 80 minutes and 30 seconds exactly, making it their longest album yet. It starts with a powerful opening track, ‘The 1975,’ which has been a tradition for the band to recreate on every album with their new aesthetic in mind. In this album’s version, you are greeted by the voice of Greta Thunberg describing the current climate crisis with the band in the background. This is a clear political statement, setting the overall mood for the album. As soon as that first song is finished, you are swept into ‘People,’ a punk, screamo anthem that tells it like it is.

Personally, I wasn’t very keen on the album’s new sound when I first heard it, but the more you listen, the more you just kinda get used to it. This is also their first album to feature other vocalists, such as F.K.A Twiggs, and even Matty Healy’s dad, Tim Healy. Matty and the rest of the band clearly aimed to convey personal stories with this album, sharing memories and truths about everything that has happened in their lives so far. It especially focuses on Matty’s past addiction to heroine. This is prevalent in ‘Nothing Revealed / Everything Denied,’ in which he calls himself out on his own lies. The visuals for the music videos of this album tell a story in themselves, centered around themes of a ‘digital detox’ that comments on stepping away from social media’s negative effects.

The final track, ‘Guys,’ brings the album to an emotional close. In this song, Matty expresses his love for his bandmates that he’s known since he was 13, stating that they’re the best thing that’s ever happened to him. (Ouch.) You can’t help but sob as you think of everything they have been through together, which inevitably makes you think of all the times you’ve been in a rough place and listened to their songs, layering your own memories on top of theirs. With the world in shambles, this album came at a good time to give a socially-distanced, dancy hug. In my opinion, it isn’t their best album, especially comparing it to A Brief Inquiry etc, but in the end, it’s authentically The 1975, and you can’t help but appreciate the raw truth it brings during these chaotic times.” – Flora

RATING: 7/10

FOR FANS OF: Catfish & The Bottlemen, Tame Impala, Pale Waves

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Thanks so much to all my friends who contributed to this post 🙂

2019 Concert Recap

As 2019 comes to a close, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the amazing artists I’ve had the privilege of seeing live this year. Bring on 2020!

Bad Suns, 3/1/19:

My first concert of 2019 was a blast. Christo Bowman, lead singer, put on an incredible show, and my friend and I witnessed it all from the front row. The band played all of the crowd faves (“Cardiac Arrest,” “Salt,” and “Off She Goes” to name a few), plus exclusive material from their latest album, Mystic Truth, which had not yet been released. My favorite song to hear live was their 2017 single, “This Was a Home Once.” The iconic guitar intro and relatable lyrics made for a perfect sing-along moment. Another memorable moment was when Christo stood on the crowd mid-show. Mind-bending to witness, and incredible to experience from the barrier.

The 1975, 4/27/19:

I mean…what can I say? Of course, this was my fave concert of 2019 by a long shot. The whole show was about 2 hours, but it felt like 2 minutes. Time flies when you’re ROCKIN’ out HARD to your fave band. The 1975 are incredible performers and surprise me every time I see them. This time, Matty belted his popular single, “Sincerity Is Scary,” while strolling on a treadmill set up on stage. This prop was meant to mimic the song’s music video. This tour focused more on graphics and stage lighting than the physical boxes that the band has included/emphasized in past tours. During their politically- charged single, “Love It If We Made It,” intense phrases and video clips of real-world issues flashed like strobe lights across the screen.

Heart, 9/3/19:

Nancy and Ann Wilson of Heart were two prominent voices of my childhood. “Love Alive” was on repeat every Saturday while my family did weekend house cleaning. Hearing that song live during this concert, which included Ann’s killer flute-playing skills, was pretty surreal. Plus, the band did their famous rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.” Check out my videos here.

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Joseph, 9/15/19:

I’ve been following these talented Portland girls since the early days of I’m Alone, No You’re Not. I met them in 2016 when they were about to embark on a world tour with singer-songwriter James Bay, and they’ve blown up since then! This September concert, which was as small, acoustic show, was intimate and raw. Each of the girl’s voices shined through as they performed tracks from their latest record, Good Luck, Kid. Plus, they were just as sweet and friendly, 3 years later.

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The Paper Kites, 9/17/19:

The most chill concert I’ve attended all year. The stage was set as if we were being  serenaded from the band’s living room, complete with blinds placed on each side of the stage that cast long, moody shadows. This was the first ever show where I was given a “press pass” as a music blogger! That aspect definitely made the experience even more magical. My favorite song to see live was “Bloom.”

5SOS, 12/5/19:

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This concert was an unplanned, super fun blast from the past. I was invited last minute to attend this show with my friend, which was actually a Chainsmokers concert with 5 Seconds of Summer as the opener. (We were there for 5SOS, obvi.) 5SOS, for those of you who are unfamiliar, were an insanely popular Australian boyband in 2014. In high school, my two best friends and I went to Seattle to see them, wore their merch, and followed them religiously on Twitter. Although they’ve died down in popularity since then, they’re still making great music. It was SO much fun to see them again, older, cuter (in my opinion) and still performing with so much energy on stage! Check out my videos of the show here.

Charlie Puth, 12/7/19:

Charlie Puth KILLED it. If you didn’t know, he’s gifted with perfect pitch, so his voice is as smooth as butter live and he can make any minor mistake seem intentional. Charlie introduced us to his adorable lab puppy, Charlie Jr., sung two of his hits, “Attention,” and “Mother,” and one Christmas carol during this small, acoustic show. It was a Charlie Puth Christmas!

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Concerts I’m attending in 2020 (so far):

Dermot Kennedy: 1/10/20: I can’t wait to see a full-length Dermot concert! I’ve only seen him live once, which was a small show where he did about three songs. I’m looking forward to hearing the new tracks off his 2019 record, Without Fear.

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Happy New Year, followers! I hope 2020 is filled with good music, loving friends/family, and new experiences. Even when things get hard, remember that you can always turn to music and the people it connects you to.

Xox

Sophie

8 Songs That Will Trigger the Deepest Depths of Your Memory

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Lately, there’s been a genre of posts going viral on Instagram/Twitter that feature pictures of old games, toys, movies, and TV shows from the childhoods of late millennials like me. People typically comment on them, saying: “woah, this just triggered the deepest depths of my memory.” These kind of posts inspired today’s blog post! I compiled a list of 8 songs that were a big hit on the radio a decade or so ago. You’ve probably forgotten about most of them, but you’ll remember as soon as you press play.

1. “Barely Breathing” by Duncan Sheik

This song was released in 1996, but I remember hearing it on the radio in the early 2000’s on the way to school. It was the first single off the debut, self-titled record by American singer-songwriter and composer, Duncan Sheik. Originally, it was a last-minute track added to the album to finish the record, but the song ended up becoming Sheik’s breakout hit, entering the top 20 of the U.S. Billboard charts, peaking at #16, and remaining on the chart for 55 weeks. It even landed him a Broadcast Music Incorporated Award for Most Played Song of the Year. Since then, Duncan has focused more on composing. In 2016, he wrote the music and lyrics to the Broadway musical version of American Psycho. I heard this song in Trader Joe’s last week, and was instantly transported to 2006.

2. “Boston” by Augustana

This song was released in 2005 on Augustana’s debut record, All the Stars and Boulevards. It’s been used in quite a few TV shows, like Scrubs, One Tree Hill and The Big Bang Theory. Since then, the band split and reformed again in 2012. In August of 2016, Augustana’s social media sites changed their names to “Dan Layus,” which is the name of the founding member and lead singer/songwriter of the band. Their most recent record was released in 2016.

3. “Porcelain” by Moby

Moby, an American electronica musician, released this song as the sixth single from his fifth studio album Play in 2000. According to his website, “Its melancholic lyrics describe the break-up of a relationship based on Moby’s own reflections on past romantic affections. The song incorporates reversed string samples and piano rhythms into its instrumentation.” Moby’s real name is Richard Melville Hall. His middle name and his nickname/stage name, “Moby,” were given to him by his parents because of a distant ancestral relationship to famous author Herman Melville, who wrote Moby Dick. He was Hall’s great-great-great-grand uncle!

Fun fact: the song samples the song “Fight For Survival” from the 1960 film Exodus.

4. “Right Here Right Now” by Jesus Jones

This song, by British alternative dance band Jesus Jones, was released in 1990 on their album Doubt. It was semi-successful in the UK, but ended up being more successful in the U.S.–it reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in July of 1990. It was even named the most played song on college radio in 1991! Jesus Jones is set to release a new record this coming April.

5. “Take a Picture” by Filter

This song, by American rock band Filter, was released in November of 1999 on their sophomore album Title of Record. In the beginning of 2000, it peaked at number 12 on the US Billboard Hot 100. Lead singer of Filter, Richard Patrick, has said that the song is about him getting drunk on an airplane and taking off all of his clothes. The band split in 2003, then reformed in 2007. They are currently working on a new record, but haven’t set a release date yet. I remember playing this song with my friends in middle school on the old video game “Band Hero.” 🙂

6. “Satellite” by Guster

This song landed Guster their first gold record just last year. It’s the second single from their 2006 album, Ganging Up on the Sun, which received a lot of radio play, but didn’t quite make it up on the charts. (I love the album artwork for this record.) I remember my local radio stations playing it a lot as a kid. Guster just released their a new record, Look Alive, in January of this year.

7. “Tom’s Diner” by Suzanne Vega, DNA

“Da da da duh, doo da-doo doo…” …That one lyric that gets stuck in your head every time you hear it.

This song was released in 1981, originally written by American singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega. The track was then remixed by British group DNA, which shot it up onto the charts. The song’s title and story is based off of Tom’s Diner in New York City, located on the corner of Broadway and 112th Street. (You may recognize it from Seinfeld.) “Tom’s Diner” been sampled in a ton of tracks since, like Fall Out Boy’s “Centuries,” and The Black Eyed Peas’ “Wings.”

8. “Hey Sandy” by Polaris

Were you a fan of Nickelodeon’s The Adventures of Pete & Pete? (It first aired in 1989.) If so, you might recognize this one–it was used as the opening theme song for the show. Polaris, which was a band specifically commissioned and formed to create music for the show, released just one album during their time together in 2002, simply titled Music From the Adventures of Pete & Pete. (I highly recommend this album, by the way…there are some killer tracks on it that make me wish they were still a band!)

Fun fact: The intro to the song features a sound bite by actor Sorrell Booke. In the clip, he  discusses U.S. missiles designed during the Cold War. This sound bite is from “To The Moon: A Time-Life Records Presentation,” an 1969 audio recording about the first moon landing.

 

What songs did you remember? Tweet me!

Now Playing: Winter 2018

Albums:

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The 1975: A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships

I’ve been looking forward to the release of this record for a few years now, and let me tell you, The 1975 did not disappoint. This record (“ABIIOR” for short) marks yet another new style/era for the band. (Each album seems to be a wildly different sound than the last.) There are quite a few ballads on this one, including the mesmerizing, jazzy tune about fear of commitment, “Mine,” and the haunting “Inside Your Mind.” (My personal favorite.)

IMG_1734Other incredible tracks include the Oasis-esque “I Always Wanna Die Sometimes,” and intense scream-along, “Love It If We Made It,” which centers around pretty much everything wrong with the world right now. The band has filmed 3-4 music videos to go along with selected tracks which were released as singles prior to the full album release on November 30, and my favorite by far was the video for “Sincerity Is Scary.” In addition, Matty has uploaded a few incredible acoustic performances of the new tracks, plus two of the band’s older songs, “Paris” and even “102,” from The 1975’s Drive Like I Do days. Track 1, simply titled “The 1975,” has been present on every record the band has released so far–they reinvent the song each time, tweaking the style and overall sound. (Left: The limited edition poster I received after attending a The 1975 Listening Party at my local record store!)

ABIIOR touches on the consequences of technology in the modern age, lack of genuine connections between human beings, and the current political issues going on in our world. Long story short, I love almost every single track. The record has a variety of style and meaningful lyrics to fill your time dissecting, and listening to it all makes me even more excited to see them live next April. Also, reminder that the guys are planning to release another album early next year 😉

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Hozier: Nina Cried Power EP

This EP was released in October, and although it’s comprised of just four tracks, it’s jam-packed with some notable tunes. When asked about how this EP ties into the release of his sophomore album, Hozier says: “This collection of songs is an example of what I’ve been working on and is a small taste of what is to be expected from the upcoming album.” The first track, “Nina Cried Power,” which features Mavis Staples, strays from Hozier’s usual style and is a rad protest song. Hozier says that the song as well as the accompanying music video highlights the work of Irish activists, and famous Civil Rights activist Nina Simone. Can’t wait to hear the rest of his new material!

Singles:

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Horace Bray: “How It Ends”

This single combines soulful vocals and jazz acoustic/electric guitar with a driving, heartbeat-like bass. Horace, who began playing drums at the young age of ten, is a singer-songwriter from L.A. who grew up in St. Louis. He credits his love for jazz to an after-school jazz program he attended in St. Louis, the UNT Jazz Singers he joined at the Unviersity of North Texas, the Four O’Clock Lab Band, and a few other groups. “How It Ends” is his latest single, released just last month. My favorite lyric is: “I saw your light and now it’s gone…is this how it ends…with a flicker of how it began?” Using light as a metaphor for love is a powerful image.

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Josh Gilligan: “Absent Mind”

This song has some serious Mac Demarco vibes going on–especially the intro and middle riff, which features a funky electric guitar and background synth. The song follows the story of two people who have previously been in a relationship (or perhaps never at all), yet one of them still believes they are a couple. Josh Gilligan is still a fairly new, up-and-coming artist from Nashville, TN. Surprisingly, he says he has been heavily influenced by artists like Paul Simon, Bread, America, Dawes, and The Real Efforts Of Real People–however, his music strays far from the style of these artists.

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Julianna Zachariou: “Subway Song”

This lovely, sleepy track snuck its way onto my Spotify Discover page last month, and it hasn’t left my head since. I find myself singing it at random times, and I’m even attempting to learn how to play it on my ukulele. It’s short, sweet and simple–Juliana paints a picture of an early morning subway ride in New York, where half-asleep passengers clutch the rails. They sway back and forth with the rhythm of the train, and it looks as if they are slow-dancing with one another. Julianna Zachariou is a indie singer-songwriter from Nashville, and her first full-length album, “Meanwhile,” made its debut last year.

An Interview with Halie Loren

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Halie Loren

Halie Loren, originally from Southeast Alaska, has been writing and performing music since the age of 13. Now an international, award-winning jazz/pop singer, Halie is a force to be reckoned with. She has released a total of ten albums over her years as a singer-songwriter, topped charts across the world, toured worldwide, and continues to wow her fans with her enchanting voice and multi-lingual lyrics–she speaks eight languages, including English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, Japanese and Korean!

After moving to the Northwest as a teen, Halie quickly fell in love with the Northwest and its music scene–and it loved her back. Within months of making the move, she was invited to be a main performer in a sold-out concert series that received much exposure around the Northwest (at just 13 years old!) A few years later, Halie graduated from high school (early) at the age of at 17. She then moved to Nashville to further pursue her dream as a songwriter. She spent the next 1-1/2 years in “Music City” writing, recording, and performing. When she returned to the good old Northwest to attend school at the University of Oregon, (scooo DUCKS!) her musical style reformed and took on a whole new sound. She had found her voice. She began touring as both a solo songwriter and jazz vocalist accompanied by a full band.

Halie didn’t stop there. During her sophomore year at UO, Halie formed her own independent record label and production company, White Moon Productions, and  released a collaborative benefit CD, “For the Love.” Things have only gone up for Halie since then. Her debut jazz CD, “They Oughta Write a Song,” won the International
Independent Music award for best vocal jazz album of the year, her 2012 release, “Heart First,” was honored by Japan’s Jazz Critique Magazine as the best vocal jazz album of year, and reached No. 1 on the iTunes Canada jazz albums chart…the list goes on.

I had the pleasure of chatting with the talented Halie Loren for today’s blog post. Enjoy! 🙂

0A Perfect Playlist: What role does language play in your creative process/songwriting?

Halie Loren: I have recorded or performed songs in 8 different languages. I’d say that I am definitely a linguaphile! I love learning songs in many different languages and the creative avenues that this practice opens up. When I’m singing a song in a language I’m either unfamiliar with or far less comfortable with than my native tongue, my inner instrumentalist comes out to play—words feel more like sounds, which is a playful way to vocalize. I get out of my narrator-mind a bit. Of all the languages I sing in, I actually speak Spanish conversationally. I also speak a tiny bit of Italian and French, and know some phrases in all of the other languages I’ve performed. I wish I could say that I’m legitimately multi-lingual in a conversational or fluency sense… I guess I enjoy being able to live out at least a bit of that dream in my music!

APP: Your music is very popular in Japan, even reaching on the Billboard Japan Top 20 Jazz Albums chart! That’s amazing, congrats. Did this surprise you? You mentioned on social media that you did a week-long tour of Japan. What did you think?

0-1HL: It has indeed been a thrilling part of my musical life! Several of my albums have even had the honor of achieving #1 on the Billboard Jazz chart in Japan, and most of the albums I’ve released there (most distributed through Japan’s JVC Kenwood / Victor label) have remained in the Amazon Japan Top 10 in several chart categories. My Japanese fans have been really good to me. I’ve toured there ten times, including my most recent tour this past July, which was part of a lengthier summer tour (in support of my new album “From the Wild Sky”) that also included Korea, Canada, the US, France, and the UK. Japan is a really wonderful place to play music — the audiences there tend toward being extremely astute, appreciative music fans, and the venues are some of the most high-quality in terms of staff professionalism and sound equipment I’ve worked with  anywhere in the world.

APP: Who are some of your inspirations as an artist? Who have you been listening to lately?

HL: One of my biggest inspirations is Joni Mitchell — her songs and their quirky genius, her stylistic risk-taking, the way she seemed to follow her muse above all else, and her realness when talking about her career. She seems like a genuine person, and one that I’d really love to know, at that.

As for who I’ve been listening to lately, I’ve found myself on a nostalgia kick, and have been listening to a lot of 60’s and 70’s  songwriters that were the soundtrack to my life in my formative years… artists such as Carole King, Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris, Nina Simone, John Denver, Simon and Garfunkel, and a lot of others.

APP: What do you hope people gain from your music?

p-1HL: I hope that people experience a moment of emotional connection in which they feel a little bit more in touch with their human-ness. I know that’s what music does for me. Sometimes we all need to hear something that allows us to fully feel whatever it is that we’re going through— music can sort of give us permission, if you will, to swim around in our internal experience and relish it, whether it’s a joyful or melancholic moment we’re having. I love that about art in general, and it’s what I hope mine carries to the listener as well.

APP: What has been the most difficult obstacle for you to overcome as an artist?

HL: Internal obstacles, for sure. I’m naturally a shy person — quite introverted by default — so putting myself in the spotlight to begin with was a very difficult challenge to overcome, and even now, after almost 20 years of being a professional performer, I find myself facing those moments where I feel intense internal resistance toward putting myself out there the way that artists are often required to do. Social media has definitely changed all of our expectations as to what being an artist is, and how accessible and public one needs to be to continue to do what they do. This ever-changing reality has been a catalyst for me to hone my skills and push through the discomfort, which is probably really good for me.

The flip-side of this part of my nature is that I feel like it really benefits the songwriter part of me, in that a lot of my life is lived internally, and I often spend my time observing the world around me and listening more than talking.

APP: Favorite song you’ve sung, written or both?

p-3HL: Talk about a tough question! I honestly can’t pinpoint one song that I could definitively declare is my “favorite”, as that shifts from performance to performance, from moment to moment… sometimes a song is just perfect for a particular time and place, and in that moment that song is my favorite. I will say that I am always in the mood to revel in the song “Feeling Good” — it puts me in a great head-space every time, and maybe that’s because it always makes me think of the nature places I love so much and grew up around in Alaska and Oregon… it fills me with a sense of magic and wonder. One of my self-penned songs that I am most in love with right now is “Noah” from my new album “From the Wild Sky”, mostly because that song has really helped me come to terms with letting go and allowing for change. There’s a lot going on in the world that is creating struggle for people — natural disasters, climate change, conflicts, geopolitics, and so much more — and, for me, this song speaks to that pain but hopefully acts as a salve as well.

APP: Dream artist to collab with?

Can I name a few? Picking just one seems impossible! My list would include Jamie Cullum, Sufjan Stevens, Paula Cole, Frank Ocean, and Natalia Lafourcade, among others. There are so many inspiring and amazing artists out there with whom I’d be honored to create!

Thanks, Halie!

 

Find Halie:

Website

Spotify

Twitter

 

Photos and some bio information courtesy of Halie Loren/White Moon Productions.

 

Summer Spins

Summer is here again! I’m super excited to be interning with The Portland Radio Project during the next few months, a non-profit radio station in Portland committed to showcasing local artists and supporting small businesses. I’ll be doing graphic design and social media work for PRP, which I’m stoked about!

Meanwhile, I’ve been listening to a lot of new music. Listen along below.

Albums

51xW1wRspzL._SS500Twin Shadow: Caer

I discovered this album by chance on Spotify, and I’m so glad I did! With a sound similar to artists like Flume and ODESZA, lead singer George Lewis Jr. has an intriguing voice. It is often complimented by quirky instruments like synthesizers.

You may recognize a few other voices on this record, such as band HAIM and singer-songwriter Rainsford. By far, my favorite track on the record is “Too Many Colors,” mostly because of the super cool intro. When you first listen to the song, it’s easy to mistake it for a children’s song or something straight out of Disney–a xylophone dominates the beginning of the track, which then leads into the first verse.

bridge_leon_goodthing_101bLeon Bridges: Good Thing

This record came out just last month, but I already know every lyric. 🙂 Before the release of this sophomore album, Leon teased us with a little taste of what was to come. He released his two singles, “Bad Bad News” and “The Bet Aint Worth The Hand” back in March. Surprisingly enough, I’d say that the rest of the record is pretty different from these two tracks, though! Through a healthy mix of blues, jazz and soul, Good Thing is a compilation of Leon’s stories: forgiving someone who broke his heart, his mother and her childhood (a continuation of the last record), and the moment he realized he may have found the girl of his dreams. Overall, I think this record is so beautiful–my favorite tracks are “Forgive You,” “Beyond,” and “Mrs.”

Leon will be on tour this summer! See if he’s coming to your city here.

the-search-for-everything-b-iext48856379John Mayer: The Search For Everything

John released his newest single, “New Light,” just last month, and paired it with a HILARIOUS music video. He hired a low-budget Bar Mitzvah video company to produce it. As a result, the video features John singing in front of a variety of incredibly cheesy backdrops matched with wacky transitions. Through out the video, John dances awkwardly in  a pair of dad-esque, purple striped pants and a torn sweatshirt. If you’re in need of a good laugh, watch the video here.

The Search For Everything was released not long before this single. The record follows John’s traditional style of ballads and bops, my favorites being “Still Feel Like Your Man,” “Emoji Of a Wave,” and “In The Blood.” This is one of those albums that anyone who’s ever been in a relationship (and experienced its end) can relate to–you can cry to this record, belt to it, or dance, depending on the song. That’s one of John Mayer’s many talents–he produces a a versatile style of tunes that can fit any mood.

Singles

the-1975-give-yourself-a-try-1527789760-640x640The 1975: “Give Yourself A Try”

On Friday June 1, The 1975’s much-anticipated new single,”Give Yourself A Try” was released. During my 10 am lecture that morning, I snuck out my earbuds and tuned into the premiere on Capital FM, London’s most popular radio station. Obviously, I loved the track immediately. It strays pretty far from the band’s usual style–with repetitive, biting electric guitar laying down the foundation of the song.

“Give Yourself a Try” describes Matty Healy’s (lead singer) experience of “getting spiritually enlightened at 29,” dealing with a drug addiction over the past few years: “And you’ll make a lot of money, and it’s funny, ’cause you’ll move somewhere sunny and get addicted to drugs,” and subtle views on politics: “I found a grey hair in one of my zoots…like context in a modern debate, I just took it out.”

De0tQzKU8AAmJQdDespite what many fans thought, The 1975’s new record didn’t drop on June 1. 😦 Instead, the band released this new single and announced the beginning of a new “era” of music for the band, known as the “Music For Cars” era. The new album, set to release in October 2018, will be titled “A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships.”

Naturally, being the super-fan I am, I threw a The 1975-themed party with my friends to ring in the new era! I covered my apartment with pink, black and white themed decorations, as well as provided The 1975-themed games and snacks (pink Starbursts, pink glowing balloons, pink Goldfish crackers, black and white napkins and silverware, The 1975 album-themed cupcakes, and a game of Pin-The-Tat-On-The-Matty.)

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Betty Who: “All Things” (From Queer Eye)

This is my go-to feel-good song for the summer. This single is a cover of the opening theme for my favorite show on Netflix right now, Queer Eye, a reboot of the Bravo series Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. It features the new Fab Five: Antoni Porowski, food and wine expert; Tan France, fashion expert (my favorite!); Karamo Brown, culture expert; Bobby Berk, design expert and Jonathan Van Ness, grooming expert. In each episode, The Fab Five give straight guys across the country much-needed life, fashion, and home advice/makeovers. Queer Eye is incredibly touching, hilarious, and the Fab Five are beyond lovable. This song, covered by pop singer Betty Who, features Betty’s killer vocals, and the music video for it is EPIC, featuring all five guys!

a3462444518_10Florist: “Vacation”

I’m not entirely sure what it is I love so much about this song, but I’ve had it on repeat the past few days. “Vacation” is a combination of warm, childhood memories and the everyday thoughts of a girl going through life the best way she can. Through out the track, lead singer Emily Sprague sings about reminding herself of the good things in her life in the midst of finding herself. My favorite lyric is: “I don’t know how to be what I wanted to be when I was 5.” Everyone can relate to this line, and I think I speak for a lot of people when I say there are times when it feels like we’re simply coasting through life, unsure of what to do next. It’s easy to start wondering what the five-year-old version of yourself would think of who you are now, and whether or not they’d be happy with the things you’ve accomplished. Songs like “Vacation” are really important, because it reminds us that we aren’t alone in thinking these things. It urges us to examine the moments that have shaped us, and remember that every day we continue to grow and change. Another lyric I love is: “And at least I know that my mom is breathing when we talk on the phone. And at least I know that my house won’t burn down, down to the ground. Or maybe it will.”

Accept things that come your way, and never stop listening to music that means something to you.

Spring Tunes

Helloo! It’s been a while.

I’ve been incredibly busy these past few months, so I haven’t had much time to sit down to write a post. However, no matter how hectic things get throughout the school year as I drown in homework and activities, there’s always time for music.

Now that it’s spring, my favorite artists seems to have decided now is the time to release new music and mix up their sound–and I’m loving it. Check out what I’ve been listening to below!

Singles

leon-bridges-good-thing-620x620Leon Bridges: “Bad Bad News” & “Bet Aint Worth The Hand”

The release of these two new singles teases Leon’s fans with a tiny taste of what’s to expect from his upcoming album. Unsurprisingly, I love both of these tracks–especially “Bad Bad News.” It’s an innovative, jazz-alternative track featuring some killer bass guitar, sizzling drums and of course, Leon’s beautiful lyrics. Although the two singles he released are very different from the style of his debut album, Coming Home, released in 2016, the new tunes are still true to his sound and immensely unique.

album-packshotGeorge Ezra: “Pretty Shining People,” “Hold My Girl,” and “Saviour” (ft. First Aid Kit)

I’ve written a lot about George Ezra, an English singer-songwriter, podcaster and musician. He’s got a lot going for him right now–George started a podcast called “George Ezra and Friends,” last month, in which he’s interviewed some big-name artists like Ed Sheeran and Hannah Reid (London Grammar). They’ve chatted about their creative process, what they love about music, and more. Check it out here! “Pretty Shining People,” “Hold My Girl” and “Saviour” will all be featured on George’s upcoming album, Staying At Tamara’s, which is set to release on the 23rd of this month. I am particularly loving “Saviour,” right now. This haunting single features the band First Aid Kit, and the heartbreaking, repeated lyric that I love: “all of me is all for you, and what I have to give is not enough.”

James Bay: “Pink Lemonade”

bay

This single, which came out on March 7th, is incredibly different from anything James has ever released–especially considering the fact that his debut EP “The Dark Of the Morning” (2013) is all acoustic. Although he’s released Chaos And The Calm since then, a pop-alternative album featuring his most popular song, “Let It Go,” this single strays far from James’ usual style with its harsh electric guitar and a more gruff vocal style from James. Check out his SNL performance of “Pink Lemonade”  here!

Albums

a4082023118_10 Little Chief: Lion’s Den

One word to describe this record: cathartic. Little Chief is a folk band from the Ozark Mountains who are often compared to artists such as The Lumineers, Mumford & Sons and the Head and the Heart. The song “Lion’s Den” on the record is about mustering the strength to put your faith in things that are unseen, and let go of what may happen in the future. Every song on this album tells a story of perseverance, resilience, and finding peace in the most difficult moments.

HONNE: Warm On A Cold Nighta93acfc2563cf68c465f554ef956a292.970x970x1

I’m OBSESSED with the vocals on this album. Lead singer Andy Clutterbuck’s voice is low, hypnotizing and perfectly complimented by the backing guitar and piano on this record. My absolute favorite song right now is “It Aint Wrong Loving You.” A catchy, sweet pick-me-up tune.

Album Review: Nathan Sykes’ “Unfinished Business”

nathan-sykes-reveals-unfinished-business-album-artwork-01I’m so excited to finally write this post! Nathan Sykes has been a favorite of mine since I was thirteen years old and he was a part of my most favorite band at the time, The Wanted. I’ve so enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a solo artist since then.

The Wanted were an Irish-British-pop band formed in 2010 made up of members Nathan Sykes, Siva Kaneswaran, Jay McGuiness, Max George, and Tom Parker. (I’ve been following this band since my love for them in middle school, so I don’t even need to research any of this information.) After five successful years, the band decided to take a break from making music together and pursue their own careers in various fields. Since then, all the boys have succeeded in one way or another–and for Nathan, his biggest accomplishment so far has been releasing his own, debut record.

Nathan has a unique vocal style that ranges from pop, R&B to soul-sounding. He never sings one song the same way each time, and his incredibly raw, natural talent really comes through in this record–he sounds exactly as he does in his live shows, which showcases rare, amazing talent. (I’ve seen him twice, and met him two different times.) Check out the live version of his single “Famous” below. (And if you want to see videos of Nathan singing live last summer in Portland & me chatting with him, click here.)

This album, “Unfinished Business,” is an incredibly strong debut. With a variety of songs ranging from ballads, electro-pop bangers, to jazzy, trumpet-filled anthems, this record has something for everyone.

img_8317The first track on this album is a great introduction to Nathan’s new style–“Good Things Come To Those Who Wait.” This upbeat, trumpet-and-drum-infused tune features a choir accompanying Nathan, which sounds incredible. (Reminds me a bit of the style The 1975 have been incorporating into their new music–especially with songs like “If I Believe You.”) (Photo on right taken by me.)

A few of the most memorable tracks on this record are: “I’ll Remember You,” “Famous,” “There’s Only One Of You,” (this one is very John Mayer-esque), “Twist,” and “Tears In The Rain.” This new album also features a few familiar faces/voices such as rapper G-Eazy and singer-songwriter Ariana Grande.

nathNathan did a bit of touring last summer in the U.K. and U.S. to promote his upcoming album, and is planning to do another tour (most likely early next year) now that it’s released. I had the pleasure of chatting with him before his show in PDX last summer, and it was a pretty cool experience to discuss this record with him. (Plus, he’s just a funny and very sweet guy.) I tried to coax the title of the new album out of him before it had been announced, but he stubbornly refused, telling me that I “probably already know the name of the record and just don’t realize it.” 😉 Nathan also talked about how much this record means to him–he put his heart and soul into producing it, and has poured his memories and experiences into each and every song. This album is just as good as I hoped it would be. I  highly recommend checking out Nathan’s music if you’re into artists like Charlie Puth, Union J, or Olly Murs. (Picture on the left: me and Nathan!)

Nathan’s album is available on CD, vinyl, and through most streaming sites. Take a listen here!

An Interview With Samantha Preis

Samantha Preis

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Samantha Preis, a London-based singer-songwriter, has been described as possessing a “soulful,” “introspective,” and simply “captivating” voice. Her songwriting depicts stories of the complex vision surrounding the human condition, and simply every day life–from heartbreak, the art of letting go, and discovering yourself as an individual, Samantha’s music has begun its journey across the globe–from her home base in London, to the U.S., Middle East and beyond. Her latest single, “Lost For Me,” is available on all music streaming sites, as well as her debut album Good News, which was released in 2013.

A Perfect Playlist: How would you describe your sound?

Samantha Preis: Others have described me as sounding Pop/Jazz/Folk, or compared me with artists such as Norah Jones, Laura Nyro, Kate Bush, Tori Amos, etc.

APP: Yeah, your voice reminds me of Norah Jones mixed with a bit of Florence and the Machine. Who are a few of your influences when it comes to your unique style?

SP: The Beatles, Michael Hedges, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder, Neil Young, Steely Dan, Jethro Tull, Debussy, Jobim, Burt Bacharach, Django Reinhardt, Frank Sinatra, Gershwin, Bill Evans…. all jazz really… a lot of music from the 60’s and 70’s… I could go on and on!

APP: Tell me a little bit about your latest single, “Lost For Me.” What’s the story behind that song?

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SP: The song is about an individual venturing into the unknown, armed with very little except memories of people and experiences that have shaped her. These things help guide her through her journey. I feel that people and experiences in our lives stay with us far after they are physically gone and give us direction and meaning.

APP: Favorite gig you’ve ever done?

SP: Cafe Universel – a jazz bar in Paris’ Latin Quarter – it’s a small, intimate venue where true art-lovers come to feel something.

APP: That sounds wonderful. What advice can you give to young artists who are looking to begin songwriting?

SP: Play what you feel. Write for yourself, not for anyone else.

14425485_10155266801802785_6275809722654663357_oAPP: There is a theory that songs are just waiting to be written–we are constantly surrounded by them in a sense, and songwriters pin them down, capturing their story in the form of a song. If one artist doesn’t claim the song, someone else will. Do you agree with that theory? What is your songwriting process?

SP: I don’t believe songwriting is a competition. A lot of songwriters seem to feel like they need to write a song a day, or that the more songs they write, the more likely one of them will become a “hit.” I am not that way. I write when I am inspired to. I may go months without writing a song, or a very long time without feeling the desire to play at all. I have found that my best material comes in spurts and is often unplanned– it’s almost as if I am channeling something in the room that comes through me… like TV air waves!

APP: What records have you been listening to/loving lately?

SP: Loving everything by Kings of Convenience – totally brilliant. Also Chad Vangaalen is fascinating.

APP: What has been your biggest accomplishment so far in terms of your musical career?

14115625_10155172245002785_3697200637170627119_oSP: I love putting out the most honest work I possibly can. I was very proud to release my first album Good News in 2013.

APP: If you could bring back one artist from the dead to perform with, who would it be and why?

SP: David Bowie or Prince, possibly. I feel they both supported the idea that there are no rules in art. They created music/art they truly believed in, even when it may have been seen as unusual. People loved them for it because it was honest and real and their enthusiasm for what they did was contagious.

APP: Anything else you’d like to say to the readers of A Perfect Playlist?

SP: Love yourself. Love what you do. Keep on rocking in the free world 😉

good-news

Find Samantha here:

Website

Twitter

Spotify

Soundtrack To My Summer 2016

Hello hello!

Today I thought I’d share with you a few of the albums I’ve been jamming out to this summer. Every year, I seem to find a new abundance of insanely good records that keep me smiling (and singing) all throughout the hot summer months. Enjoy, and please tweet me your favorites this summer! 🙂

Life_is_ElsewhereLittle Comets–Life Is Elsewhere

This album is a few years old, but for some reason, I’ve become obsessed with it this summer. When it was released in 2012, I briefly gave it a listen after meeting the band at the Skype Live Studio in Portland. Although I did enjoy it back then, I have grown to like it even more over the past few months–definitely my type of music now. The album features echoey, booming choruses and witty lyrics that AllMusic claims “straddles the line between experimental art rock and dance-oriented indie pop.” I absolutely love all the tracks on this album, but my top three favorites are definitely “Bridge Burn,” “Violence Out Tonight,” and “Worry.”

poolsPorches–Pool

What first drew me to this album was the cover art. (It reminded me a bit of the style of my favorite band, The 1975.) The dreamy pinks and purple hues of the photo parallels the sounds of the record–the lead singer, Aaron Maine, posseses a funky, captivating, almost-lonesome-sounding voice and he is backed by some hypnotizing bass as well as snynthesizer. This album came out in February of this year, and is the band’s second studio album. With a sound similar to The xx and Beach House, this record serves as a great playlist for napping, studying, or just spacing out.

packshotBand Of Horses–Why Are You OK

Before the release of this album in June, I hadn’t listened to much of this band’s material. But when I started noticing the hype surrounding this new record, I decided to give it a shot…and I love it! According to Pitchfork, “much of Why Are You OK? was inspired by Bridwell’s experience as a father of four—recording all night and taking his kids to school looking like the ‘fucking scariest dad.’ Fatherhood teaches some to put their own problems aside and recognize what’s really important when other people are depending on you.” Each song on the album is spacey in a sense, yet each track seems to tie itself together through the band’s prominent guitar riffs, Death Cab For Cutie-esque sound, and lead singer Ben Briwell’s brilliant vocals.

the-rocky-horror-picture-show-51f816242f710The Rocky Horror Picture Show Original Soundtrack

If you’re not familiar with this popular cult classic, I encourage you to look up showings (with alive shadow cast!) in your city and check it out. The Rocky Horror Picture Show, a 1975 musical-comedy- horror film which flopped when it was first released, has gained a massive following over the years. During my first year of college this last year, my best friend introduced me to the film, and invited me to a screening which featured a live shadow cast. After one show, I was hooked. The film, which stars actor Tim Curry, is fascinating, hilarious, and just plain entertaining. So naturally, I’ve had the soundtrack on repeat this past summer. Pretty sure my parents and sister are tired of me belting “Time Warp” in the kitchen.

emily-king-the-switch-lp-stream-715x715Emily King–The Switch

If you read my recent concert preview about the fab Emily King, you know how much I love this album. It came out on June 24th of this year. The record is climbing the charts through the record’s killer bass, simple-yet-deeply-emotional lyrics, and hypnotizing harmonies sung by Emily herself.  Emily’s has a unique voice that is both breathy and compelling, and just plain beautiful. Currently, my favorite track on this album is the sassy, yet clever “BYIMM,” (which stands for By You I Mean Me.) Check out the amazing video here, which features The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’s Tituss Birgess. (My fave.)